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PARP inhibitors show promise for treating recurring ovarian cancers

Treatment is well-tolerated by patients, targeting DNA damage to stop cancer cells from self-repairing

Detecting ovarian cancer early, while the disease is limited to the ovaries, vastly improves patients’ outcomes. In stage 1, ovarian cancer can be cured in nearly 90% of cases.

Yet only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found in stage 1. Without an effective screening test, the symptoms can go undetected. In many cases, symptoms of the disease can mask as irritable bowel syndrome or changes associated with aging, making it more difficult to diagnose. 

Keeping ovarian cancer in mind as a possible diagnosis for patients with vague abdominal symptoms can help providers detect the disease earlier, says Marta Ann Crispens, MD, Director, Division of Gynecologic Oncology, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

“Better outcomes can be achieved the sooner patients receive specialized care by a trained gynecologic oncologist,” Crispens said. 

Ovarian cancer cells micrograph
Colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of ovarian cancer cells, which are typically large, have an irregular surface and divide rapidly in a chaotic manner.

Treating ovarian cancer

Frequently, the first line of treatment for ovarian cancer is surgery and platinum-based chemotherapy. Disease recurrence is common for ovarian cancer, and many patients with recurring ovarian cancer develop a platinum resistant cancer. Recurrent, platinum resistant ovarian cancer is not currently curable.

According to Crispens, PARP inhibitors are showing promise as an effective treatment for platinum resistant ovarian cancer. A PARP (poly-ADP ribose polymerase) inhibitor targets the DNA damage to stop cancer cells from self-repair. Maintenance therapy with PARP inhibitors is generally well tolerated by patients.

While early intervention remains key to cure ovarian cancer, PARP inhibitors may help improve patient outcomes for recurrent disease.

Refer a Patient

The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center treats all types of gynecological cancers. To make a gynecological oncology referral, call (615) 343-3700. 


Marta A. Crispens

Marta A. CrispensMD

    Cancers of the Female Reproductive Organs, Cervical Vulvar and Vagina Dysplasia, Gynecologic Cancer, Gynecologic Oncology, Gynecology, Obstetrics and Gynecology

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